It’s been a sobering week so far, with the release of the latest New Zealand suicide statistics revealing a rise for the third consecutive year. The dominant narrative is that we need to do better, and we need to do it together. Unfortunately, the danger of being part of the modern collective is that the responsibility is dispersed and diluted, basically we expect someone else to take charge and tell us what to do. Each and every one of us make up the collective, all of us have value and all of us have the potential to make change. Millennials get a lot of flak, but I think we’re a pretty special bunch. Yes, we’ve been told we can do anything and be anything, and that’s probably not true. However, what this has given us is permission to be ourselves, and with that comes different perspectives and the creation of one of the most diverse generational groups. We need to use this to our advantage, bring together our ideas and use them to create communities in which we can all flourish. Yesterday, as I walked past cement coated in dried vomit, I was reminded of what happened there last month, and what is says about the society we live in.
I was walking through New Lynn bus station just after 6pm, when I saw a young guy, lying face down in an empty shop front. Person after person walked past, I stopped and looked closer and he clearly wasn’t conscious. I scanned the faces of the surrounding people, to see if anyone was on the phone to an ambulance. Not one of them was even looking in his direction, all eyes were averted. As I was dialling 111, I saw security walking over with another couple; they urged security to keep an eye on him and he agreed. Within minutes of the couple leaving, the security guard left, returning to chat to his friends in a building across the road, the young man still lying motionless. Gordon pulled up and I told him what was happening and he got out to check on the guy, he gently pat his back and woke him. He began vomiting and it was clear that he was very intoxicated. Just to be clear, I took about ten steps back once the vomiting started - I've got a very weak stomach. Security came over begrudgingly and eventually an ambulance was called. I was proud to see Gordon schooling security in how to treat people with kindness. I thought back to when this ‘transport centre’ first opened, they were playing classical music to keep it as a safe and welcoming environment - but for who? If security was really there to keep everyone safe, why weren’t they making sure this person was safe?
When did this become acceptable behaviour, to leave another person in our community unconscious in a shop front? What would have happened if this man had been in a suit? How quickly would people have stopped to help? Why are we valuing some people over others? I need you to stop and think about this. Think about how you, as a member of this community can work towards narrowing the divide between each of us. We need to rebuild connection, rebuild community and transform the collective. Next time you see beauty in someone; speak it. Tell someone you’re proud of them for showing up on days when it’s hard. If you see someone that could use some help, give it. It’s worth being late for work, or class, or that coffee date. Trust me. This week I challenge you to say hi to your neighbour, say good morning to a stranger or find somewhere to volunteer your time. Just do something, anything, that will make someone else’s day. If you're not sure where to start, check out www.volunteeringnz.org.nz
Step up and reach out.